(Karuoro Waithaka) We hear this every time there is so much as a drizzle in Nairobi. I don’t know if I am the only one who is struck by how ludicrous and sad this statement is.
It rains everywhere. There are countries in this world where there are more rainy days than non-rainy days. How come these countries do not grind to a halt? How come our media is happy to keep selling the “rain caused traffic” story? There are underlying factors that never seem to be mentioned so I have decided to try making my own small list.
1. Effective Drainage Systems
…Or rather lack thereof. Water damages asphalt roads. Anytime you have stagnant water on the asphalt, it will increase the rate of damage. It is therefore prudent to channel water off the road as fast as possible. Roads should be level and have some degree of camber so that water can flow off the road as fast as possible. We construct roads that often have areas where there are water pools (that will always develop into potholes,) and we also often fail to construct adequate ditches and embankments. This means that when it rains, the roads flood and/or get damaged. This slows down the traffic flow and often means that drivers have to use oncoming traffic lanes to avoid the obstructions.
2. Poorly Maintained Cars
Visibility from within the vehicle should not be compromised by the rain. However, a large percentage of our vehicles have poor wipers and non-working or ineffective defrost systems. This means that when it rains, visibility is compromised. Drivers make up for this by driving slower, ridiculously so in some cases. This increases tailbacks which eventually build into traffic jams. We also have some cars that breakdown at the first hint of any precipitation in the air. Once again, these cause obstructions that mess up the traffic flow.
3. We Can’t Drive
I hold a Kenya drivers license. In order to get this license I had to do about twenty driving lessons and take a driving test. Not one of those driving lessons included any sort of wet weather driving training. The driving test for most drivers who got their licenses in the last 15-20 years was a mere formality whose outcome was known before the test was taken. Our testing regime is totally compromised. When I did my test, a few people who could not so much as move the test car still got their licenses. This is the norm rather than the exception. These people cannot drive in the dry. Throw some water out of the sky and suddenly you have accidents, crawling drivers and etc.
4. Traffic Management is Poor, especially during Road Construction
The Museum Hill interchange is a case in point. The manner in which traffic has been managed over the past few weeks has left an awful lot to be desired. Bottlenecks and inter-crossing traffic flows have been the order of the day. This has become a scene of long tailbacks.
5. We Behave Like Fools
There are tailbacks caused by all the above factors. What do individuals do? They overlap, jump traffic lights, block junctions and make an already bad situation many times worse. Gridlock is never unavoidable; it does not come about because “we have too many cars and not enough road”. The truth is, no road is big enough to accommodate the folly that Kenyan drivers display on a daily basis. We are the cause of the trouble. Agreed?
(Picture by Japheth Kagondu)